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Auto Special: Mercedes-Benz is on track to outsell its rivals by 2020

By Du Xiaoying | China Daily | Updated: 2015-04-21 08:40

Mercedes-Benz on Monday kicked off media day at Auto Shanghai 2015. The automaker has often made a splash at Auto China events, but this year's news conference was especially impressive thanks to the formidable lineup of 46 vehicles that reflects the automaker's growing confidence in and strong commitment to China.

A number of Daimler board members and Mercedes-Benz key executives, including Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, attended and answered the media's questions.

Zetsche focused on the plans for the year ahead and beyond, specifically highlighting the company's ambitious "2020 plan".

"Our strategy is to sell more than our competitors by 2020, although this does not prohibit us from passing them sooner," he said.

And, as he was quick to note, the three-pointed star continues to make steady progress toward achieving this goal.

"This year, we have sold more vehicles than BMW worldwide, and in March this year sold more than Audi," he added.

Much of this growth has come from China, where the company has built upon its recent run of success with strong sales in the New Year. According to official statistics, Mercedes-Benz posted year-on-year sales growth of 18 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

This has given the company reason for optimism.

"We took it as a law of nature that Audi and BMW were growing, and we were not, so when I made this target, which was strongly discussed, we had to change the mindset in the company," he said. "Some of what we see today is a result of that."

"But mostly of course it is the great product," he added.

Shanghai is witnessing a strong product offensive from Mercedes-Benz, and there was a full display during the brand's news conference at the Shanghai International Exhibition Centre on Monday morning.

Star models included the Concept GLC Coup��, which is making its world premiere, as well as the GLE Coup�� and standard wheelbase All New C-Class, both of which are being introduced to Chinese audiences for the first time.

Also on display will be the locally-produced all new GLA SUV, which is making its market launch with five model variants, including the China-exclusive GLA 220 4MATIC. This vehicle and others will give offer buyers more choice and flexibility - a must in China's rapidly growing auto market.

According to China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, the output of vehicles in China in the first quarter of 2015 was 6,201,600 units, up 5.26 percent on the year before, and the number of sales was 6,153,000 units, up 3.9 percent year-on-year. And while these figures represent a slowdown compared to previous years, they nevertheless show potential for strong growth.

"In 2015, we will build on our comprehensive strengths as we work to sell significantly more than 300,000 units. We are also confident China will become the biggest market for Mercedes-Benz, perhaps this year, but definitely by next year," said Hubertus Troska, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Greater China.

"Following strong results for Daimler in China, we have even more confidence in our longterm strategy in the Chinese market," he added.

Yet, as both Zetsche and Troska were quick to note, products are not the only key to success. On the contrary, success in China demands a comprehensive strategy built on sustainable development.

Accordingly, Troska identified four additional areas in which the company will concentrate its efforts: dealer network expansion, increased local production capacity, more local R&D, and stronger financial services.

He particularly highlighted the success of the past year, which saw the rapid expansion of Mercedes-Benz's dealer network. "We once lagged behind but we're picking up speed very quickly."

"These are the factors that make us confident we can beat the growth dynamics of the market in 2015 and secure a good future for Mercedes in China," he explained.

Meanwhile, the automaker recognizes that it must continue adapting to the changing environment of high-tech upstarts and growing competition.

In response to the question of how the company will respond to with the latest development in the industry with the announcement by some local high-tech that they are planning to produce cars, Zetsche said that Mercedes-Benz welcomes competition of any kind, because all of the brand's strengths have arisen from competition.

"We know that fresh new perspectives can be very helpful," he said.

As Monday showed, the company is confident it can meet any challenges that may arise.

"If there is more challenge, then we will become all the better because of it."

<FONT color=blue>Auto Special:</FONT> Mercedes-Benz is on track to outsell its rivals by 2020

Mercedes-Benz officially announces the start of the journey at Auto Shanghai 2015 on Monday. Photos Provided to China Daily

<FONT color=blue>Auto Special:</FONT> Mercedes-Benz is on track to outsell its rivals by 2020

Mercedes-Benz GLA SUV, which was highly-anticipated and produced in China, draws crowd on its launch day at Auto Shanghai 2015.

<FONT color=blue>Auto Special:</FONT> Mercedes-Benz is on track to outsell its rivals by 2020

(China Daily 04/21/2015 page15)

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